If you are like me you probably think preserving African wildlife is as simple as 1,2,3. Well if it were so the status of wild animals and birds would be far different than they are.
Mind boggling! Wildlife species are declining at alarming rates! According to the World Wildlife Fund, in the time is takes you to read this page, one of our planet’s species will become extinct. By this time tomorrow 150–200 more will have disappeared. And by this time next year, over 50,000 more will be lost. Pretty terrifying prospect!
Over the past few years we’ve found that there are many aspects to preserving African wildlife. From building up an endangered species’ population close to extinction as Dr. Ian Player was instrumental in doing with the White Rhino in the 1970’s. [You may enjoy “Moving Rhino”] To protecting a species like the African Elephant from syndicate poachers in the wilds like Peter Milton with SPOTS, and dozens of anti-poaching teams do. [You may find “Wildlife Ranger” fascinating]
The type of wildlife conservation we’ve become quite familiar with during our travels in Southern Africa falls into the rescue and rehabilitation category. Where injured, orphaned and illegally kept wild animals and birds are brought to a center, nurtured back to full health, prepared for living in the wild and then released.
Did you notice the three Rs for preserving African wildlife?
Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release. The last R… ‘release’, of course being the objective of the first… ‘rescue’, with ‘rehabilitation’ being the process of getting from the first to the last.
A word of caution! Some commercial operations disguise themselves as wildlife centers by touting to be rescue and rehabilitation facilities, yet they forget the all-important third R. These operations are generally more about making money than preserving African wildlife. You can usually spot them by their flashy websites, flyers and offers to interact with the animals. Also, these centers may feel more like a theme park, where the visitors experience is more important than the animal or birds’ welfare. Centers like this keep the animals and birds for their entertainment value and not for the purpose of wildlife conservation.
Rescuing orphaned, injured and abused wildlife is noble. Nurturing them back to health is humane. However, keeping wild animals in captivity to be viewed and even touched for profit is not wildlife conservation. Wild animals and birds that are restored to normal health deserve to be released back into the wild.
Are there exceptions? Unfortunately there rehabilitated animals and birds that cannot be released. A lioness who has lost her canines and claws (trying to escape a poacher’s snare) is severely handicapped and cannot safely be released. A Bearded Vulture raised in a chicken coop who never learned to fly cannot be released. In these situations forever sanctuaries provide safe homes for these animals and birds to live out their lives. You’ll find that forever sanctuaries aren’t into breeding. In most cases the females are put on some form of birth control.
There can be exceptions here too. Silke at Bambelela has released Vervet monkeys with lost limbs and they have thrived. Rest assured in these situations Silke deliberated and fussed about each individual’s resilience and personality before venturing to do so.
Some species once habituated to humans cannot be rehabilitated and released. Such as the lions we saw at Kevin Richardson’s sanctuary who are simply too accustomed to people and would get themselves in trouble. Then there is the falcon whose broken wing didn’t heal quite right for him to hunt his prey or the blind owl who follows voice commands. Both birds serve as ambassadors in Shannon’s educational flight shows. Where children and adults observe the beauty of these birds of prey, learn about their value and why it is in our best interest to protect them in the wild.
What you can do
When planning to visit a wildlife center please take a minute to evaluate if it is truly preserving African wildlife. If the answers to the following two questions are No then the fascility might be more into money than wildlife conservation.
- If they call themselves a rescue and rehabilitation center is the wildlife being prepared for release back into the wilds?
- If they call themselves a sanctuary is there some form of contraception being used to prevent breeding?
When we all, you and I, get involved we become part of the solution for preserving African wildlife… for one more generation.
Helping is easy. Click the giraffe below to make a donation!